Soldiers who receive traumatic brain injuries (TBI) while serving in the war may be at a greater risk of developing epilepsy even decades after their brain injury occurred, according to new research published in a recent issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Post-traumatic epilepsy is the most common cause of new-onset epilepsy in young adults, with close to 30,000 new cases reported each year in the United States. The condition is a result of brain damage caused by physical trauma to the brain.

Researchers with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Md., interviewed 199 veterans who experienced a brain injury 35 years earlier. Each of the veterans was given intelligence tests and their brains were scanned to detect brain lesions. Of the 199 who participated in the research study, 44 percent developed post-traumatic epilepsy. Thirteen percent didn’t experience symptoms of post-traumatic epilepsy until 14 years after the initial brain injury.

“This research strongly suggests that veterans with brain injury will require long-term neurological care,” wrote the study’s author, Jordan Grafman, Ph.D. “Given the better chances of survival in soldiers fighting in conflicts today, our research suggests that all veterans with a traumatic brain injury should be routinely screened for post-traumatic epilepsy, even decades after the injury.”

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